Category Archives: projects

Working Backwards

Stop and Think...backwards

Often when I start working with a new client, they have a lot on their plate, and they’re feeling scattered and overwhelmed.

And one of the first things they ask is, “What should I be focusing on?”

Usually what they’re really asking is:

Here’s a bunch of stuff I could work on…which option is going to work out the best?

That’s the wrong question.

For one thing, outcomes aren’t within our control. So even if I dig out my Magic 8 Ball, I can’t predict what will work out the best (and neither can you).

For another thing, you’ll always have options. There will always be more opportunities than there is time available to work on them.

But even more important than those two things is this:

Remember why you’re asking the question to begin with.

Presumably, you’re asking because you want to create a work life that’s fulfilling to you. You want work that you enjoy doing. (Imagine that!)

Yet if you start by comparing available options, the chances of winding up with fulfilling, enjoyable work are slim.

It’s like getting in the car, getting on the nearest highway and just driving.

How do you know you’re going the right way? You don’t, because you didn’t choose your destination before you started.

Starting with the end in mind

That’s where working backwards comes in, starting with the right question:

What do I want in my life and business?

(Or some variation thereof.)

You have to know the end-result you want before you can know which steps to take to get you there.

I first learned this during my database design days.

I had to make sure the client was telling me all the information they would want to get out of the database, so that I would make sure to include a way for that information to get entered into the database.

If they wanted to know which zip codes had the most repeat customers, I had to design the database to track customers’ zip codes as well as who ordered what. If either of those bits of data were missing, they couldn’t find out which zip codes were the most profitable for them.

A tiny example

Maybe you’re considering partnering with someone to do in-person workshops, and it means you’ll have to go out of town once every couple of months.

And maybe you’re also considering investing in equipment that would allow you to offer a new kind of service in your business, which would mean more late evening appointments.

If you’re just comparing those two options, most likely neither will feel like a No-Brainer to you, but it might not be clear why.

How does the answer change when you ask, “What do I want for my life and business?”

Maybe, if you’re being honest with yourself, you want more time at home, and your evenings free.

If that’s the case, it doesn’t make much sense to invest money into equipment that will increase your evening appointments. Nor does it make a lot of sense to commit to a partnership that will mean more travel than you want.

Once you know what you actually want, you can work backwards to build your life and business around those desires.

It’s still a process

Might there be missteps along the way? Of course.

Sometimes the step you take will seem like a great choice, but it won’t work out. (We don’t control the outcome, remember?)

Maybe you’ll commit to teaching an online course and discover that you prefer face-to-face communication. Or maybe you’ll hire a web designer who doesn’t work out (and then disappears after promising a refund).

The steps that feel like mistakes still contain valuable learning you can use when you get back on track. (Even though they feel like a kick in the nuts.)

Step or misstep, you’re a hell of a lot more likely to head in the right direction if you know where you want to go.

Not just for big-picture stuff

This same process of working backwards applies to projects, too.

You have to know what you want to create – what end-result you want – before you can make good choices about how to get there.

It’s one of the things I’ll be teaching in Project Prowess in March. If you want to learn how to choose, start and finish projects that will grow your biz, sign up for my advance notice list to receive an email when registration is open. During the program, you’ll get clear on what you want to create, and then we’ll develop a manageable, enjoyable plan to make it happen.

Image credit: PinkMoose

You Don’t Need a Project Plan

That’s right. You heard me. You don’t need a project plan.

It’s easy to think that a good project plan is what will keep a project flowing and keep you from getting stuck, right? I mean, all that information about what needs to be done and when it should be done by…how can it not be the cure for all project ills?

But I’ve seen lots of people create new products and services and get them launched without anything remotely resembling a traditional project plan.

And I’ve gotten stuck (and witnessed clients getting stuck) on a project that had a plan with the exact right amount of detail.

So what gives?

I hinted at the answer in my last post, when I mentioned that beyond the project plan, you need stuff like Desire, Alignment, Commitment, Safety, and Capacity.

Stuckness tends to show up when one or more of those qualities is missing.

(And in case you’re new around here, what I mean by “stuckness” when it comes to a project is anything that causes your progress to slow or stop. Stuff like wanting to chase after a new shiny idea instead of working on the project you already started.

Or feeling like you need to ask a million people for their opinion of what you plan to create instead of just creating.

Or preferring to scoop out the litter box rather than work on your project.)

Today I want to talk about the most important ingredient to keep your projects moving.

The #1 Thing You Need for a Successful Project


Without Desire, you’ll either never complete the project, or you’ll need to force yourself to keep going.

And if you have to force yourself, you’ll probably wind up so drained afterward that you won’t be able to muster any excitement to tell people about your creation.

(If an ebook gets published in the forest but nobody reads it, does it make a sound?)

Why Desire is so important

You have to want to create the thing you’re about to create.

Sounds ridiculously obvious, right? But I mean you have to really want to create it.

When you get an idea for something – such as an ebook that you just know will blow people’s minds – in order for it to become more than an idea, you have to bring it out of the world of ideas, and into the world of form.

It takes a tremendous amount of energy to do that, so your desire to create the thing needs to be up at 10 (if not 11).

Anything below that and you risk not finishing the work you started.

Think back to some of your past projects. How many of them did you feel so excited about creating that your Desire was at 10 or 11?

Or did some of those projects actually have a hint of Should in them?

Or maybe your desire to do the project was actually more for a particular outcome – like selling a certain number of copies?

Does that mean that every day you need to be completely on fire to keep making progress?


But that original Desire needs to be there, someplace within you, so you can connect with it to keep going when the project gets hard.

I’ll be the first to say that even when you do everything “right,” projects are still challenging (I’ll share why that is in my next post). But with the right tools in your toolbox, you can finish a difficult project rather than shelving it.

That’s why I created Project Prowess. So you can learn how to choose, start, and complete projects that will grow your business and help your people. While you get to love your work.

Want to…

  • write an ebook?
  • create a client-wowing service or teleclass?
  • revamp your website copy?

Learn the best tools to get it done and out into the world while enjoying the process. With full support from me for a hell of a lot less than the cost of one-on-one coaching.

Project Prowess starts March 8, 2012. Registration is now open, so go check it out now!